THE REWATCH: The Doors (1991)
Something quite memorable about this overly long and choppy take on the life of Jim Morrison was a negative review I read about the movie some 20 years ago... A movie critic (I can't remember which) described this movie as a long slog through the experiences of a very unlikeable man, likening it to having to sit at a bar next to an obnoxiously sloppy drunk for 2+ hours.
Watching this movie again as a grown-up, I totally agree. Look, when I was 15, Oliver Stone's The Doors seemed revelatory and gritty and REAL, man... But now... Now I just want Jim Morrison to shut up. Actually, I just want Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison to shut up.
Now don't get me wrong, Stone didn't shy away from pointing out just how privileged and unnecessarily sulky Morrison tended to be in his heyday (and then during his extra-fattening downward spiral), and this was shown to be due in no small part to his well-heeled, Establishment parents who didn't understand him, and a brief interest in filmmaking that went up in the flames of its own pretentiousness. But these are White Boy Problems. More clearly seen today than perhaps they were in 1991 when the movie first hit theaters.
Something I had a BIG problem with was Jim Morrison's fixation on Native Americans and Indigenous imagery and culture. I mean, dancing in a circle with arms-outstretched onstage during a show and daydreaming about that day his dad saw some Indigenous folks in a car wreck and kept driving? What the ever-loving f*ck is happening here? Is this supposed to be chilling and REAL? I know I shouldn't get mad at the movie for portraying something that Jim Morrison actually experienced, but did we really need all of that as some sort of protagonist backstory for him? I mean, I lived around White people for a long time... So I guess that means in my biopic, there'd be a hundred slow-motion flashbacks to that time I witnessed country line-dancing at the American Royal or that afternoon I spent driving to Lawrence, KS while the driver listened to Eminem the entire way. Chilling and REAL.
There are the requisite sex and drugs in the blah-blah-rock-n-roll of it all, and we get to see just how far down the rabbit hole Jim Morrison went on his acid-fueled journey to rock god legend. The sideburns are killer. The fringe and love beads, plentiful. There's even a blood sacrifice or some shit with Kathleen Quinlan.
Meg Ryan's hippie chick portrayal of Pam Morrison was more confusing to me now than before... Sooooo Morrison stalks you, you tell him you have a boyfriend, he kisses you without your consent, and then you fall deeply in love... Only to experience emotional (sometimes physical) abuse and infidelity until he mysteriously dies... and then you DIE a year or two after he does... BECAUSE OF LOVE?! WTF?! I realize this is based on real events, but really? How awful is this? Women, we need to get it together, y'all. In reality and in films based on reality.
I'm making it sound like I hate this movie. That's not altogether true. There are some fun bits. Like the scene where Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek tool around on Robby's prototype for "Light My Fire":
This is the kind of stuff I live for in biopics, especially ones about musical artists. That flash of genius or lightning in a bottle... It's so much fun to see how the magic happened and how history was made.
I'm not even gonna get into Billy Idol and whatever he was doing in this.
THE REWATCH EFFECT:
Upon watching The Doors again, I realized that I've grown up in the years since I first saw this movie. Quite a bit, in fact. Nothing that Jim Morrison says or does in this movie seems particularly deep or relevant. He just sounds like an annoying "artiste" who had some deep personal problems that he never really worked on. Instead he coasted by on his good looks, his marginal song-writing talents, and a metric shit-ton of drugs and booze. Why anyone would find that fascinating and worthy of the cinematic treatment that Oliver Stone gives it here is beyond me. The real compelling story would be about his bandmates and how they managed to create cutting-edge pop music and have successful musical careers IN SPITE of Jim Morrison.
I also just figured out that the blonde in the memorable elevator scene was supposed to be Nico from The Velvet Underground. Hmmm.... The More You Know.